Winter is just around the corner on Vancouver Island, and with a change of seasons comes a fresh batch of ways to explore the elements.
In this edition of Island Moments, we’re celebrating the best all the best the season has to offer. From mountain-top hikes to underground explorations and festive activities for everyone in the family, there’s no shortage of events and activities across the region at this time of the year.
If you’re planning to escape for a little Island time this winter, here are some of the best ways to take advantage of unique experiences offered this season only.
While Vancouver Island’s stunning natural beauty may be the first image conjured in the minds of dreaming vacation planners, the cultural experiences are equally alluring. And for the three First Nations on Vancouver Island—Kwakwaka’wakw, who speak Kwak’wala, the Nuučaan̓uɫ, who thrive all along the mountains and sea, and the Coast…
While Vancouver Island’s stunning natural beauty may be the first image conjured in the minds of dreaming vacation planners, the cultural experiences are equally alluring. And for the three First Nations on Vancouver Island—Kwakwaka’wakw, who speak Kwak’wala, the Nuučaan̓uɫ, who thrive all along the mountains and sea, and the Coast Salish—as well as for the tribes within each nation, the land and the stories of their cultures are intrinsically intertwined. These nations have been stewards of the area for thousands of years: the oldest known site of human habitation on Vancouver Island (circa 5850 BCE) was located in Bear Cove within the District of Port Hardy.
The First Nations people of Vancouver Island herald the stories long told from generation to generation, and the experiences today immerse travellers in the conservation of the land and the heritage, the languages and the way of life.
Whether you’re paddling in a dug out on the West Coast or coming face to face with repatriated potlatch masks in northern Vancouver Island, step into a culture you’ve never experienced and find yourself changed.
Nations & Attractions by Region
While the borders between the nation’s territories aren’t set in stone, there are generally distinct guidelines between them, and the First Nations attractions on Vancouver Island fall within the traditional territories.
Cape Scott to Campbell River
This region, along with portions of the mainlaind (below Rivers Inlet to Quadra Island) is Kwakwaka’wakw territory. Cape Scott Provincial Park, the land off which the Tlatlasikwala, Nakumgilisala and Yutlinuk peoples lived for centuries, is now an expansive system of hiking trails and camp sites, located west of Port Hardy.
The Kwagu’ł First Nation, and more recently the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nations (who were relocated from Smith Inlet and Seymour Inlet), call Port Hardy home. In this city, travellers can book a stay at the first Aboriginal-owned hotel in the North Island, while also scheduling cultural experiences such as Wa’p & Max’inux, a scenic boat and wildlife tour.
Just 30 minutes east, the town of Port McNeill is also a launching point for cultural and wildlife tours, often stopping at the U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, the cultural hub of Kwakwaka’wakw people and home to the ‘Namgis First Nation. These tours connect history and land through the roots of the First Nations culture.
Brooks Peninsula to French Beach
Nuučaan̓uɫ territory stretches from the Brooks Peninsula, located just south of the northwest tip of the Island, down the western edge of the island to French Beach. Hallmark towns like Tofino and Ucluelet are included in this region, as well as the more remote towns of Kyuquot and Tahsis. The less sheltered coast is ideal for storm watching, wild life viewing, and kayaking trips.
Comox to Victoria
Along the east coast and across on the mainland (from Bute Inlet down), is Coast Salish territory. Explore the indigenous ways of the Snuneymuxw First Nations on Saysutshun (Newcastle Island) in Nanaimo, or browse through the artifacts, photographs, and stories of the cultures within a museum. And if you’d like to commemorate your trip, the living breathing culture of the Coast Salish people can be found in the many art galleries across this nation’s territories.
Special thanks to Sarah Etoile for contributing in part to this edition of Island Moments. Sarah Étoile is a First Nations photographer, storyteller, and steward based on Vancouver Island. She takes pride in being both Kwakwaka’wakw and Nuučaan̓uɫ. Sarah’s background is in linguistics, history, and adventure & recreation tourism.
If there’s one thing you should know about golfing on Vancouver Island, it’s that you can do it all year round. And whether you’re touring cultural experiences, heading out on a kayaking expedition, or camping your way across the Island, you’re always within a stone’s throw of a course, every…
If there’s one thing you should know about golfing on Vancouver Island, it’s that you can do it all year round. And whether you’re touring cultural experiences, heading out on a kayaking expedition, or camping your way across the Island, you’re always within a stone’s throw of a course, every which one is graced with a green Pacific Northwest backdrop. Avid Vancouver Island golf fans will be the first to laud the variety of courses too, which range from municipal courses to premiere golf experiences.
Municipal Golf Courses on Vancouver Island
With the perk of affordability, municipal courses make it easy to tack on 9 or 18 holes in between the other activities on your agenda. Despite a less hefty price tag, the courses aren’t short of the same natural vistas and challenging terrain of their more luxurious counterparts on the Island.
An unexpected bonus on your trip to the North Island, courses in towns like Sayward or Port McNeill are often described as relaxing yet challenging, promising to test your mettle.
Located in the heart of Vancouver Island, Central Vancouver Island and Cowichan courses go hand in hand with the wine tasting and hiking that the areas are known for. Near Qualicum Beach and Parksville, the seaside holes are reputed as being the driest, despite the Island’s reputation for wet conditions. And with a long-standing golf history, these courses have been favourites for locals for up to a century. Just an hour and a half south, the contouring greens and meandering creeks of courses in the Cowichan Valley invite travellers to tee off and challenge themselves to a game of strategy.
With accommodations ranging from RV hook ups to luxury resorts, a golf stay in the Pacific Rim region is a hybrid experience, and translates into not only proximity to the courses, but also the beaches and hikes of Pacific Rim National Park.
Fly in to the Comox Airport, then head over to a nearby course for an easily accessible game on an 18-hole championship course. The wide-open holes offer mountain views of the Vancouver Island Ranges, while more heavily treed fairways are often the sight of wandering deer.
A little further south in Victoria, both full size, 18-hole courses and smaller 9-hole courses look out on the Haro Strait, and on a clear day, travellers are graced with vistas of Mount Baker. True to the local spirit of Vancouver Island, the horticulturists even take advantage of the open land by growing vegetables amid the holes.
The Golf Trail
On the hunt for a bucket list golfing destination? In addition to its municipal courses, Vancouver Island is home to 13 premiere golf courses, and they’re the centerpiece of the Golf Trail. Spanning 250 kilometres, the trail covers four regions on the Island.
With both the premiere and municipal courses at your disposal, Vancouver Island is a golf destination for the amateur and the avid. Learn more about the courses on our Golfing page, or book a golfing package through the Golf Trail.
throughout Vancouver Island